I remember the very first CD I ever owned – Weird Al’s Bad Hair Day. I had a few cassettes, but I got my first stereo and my first CD on the same day, and I think that I can still recite half the lyrics from that album from heart. I listened that CD, and many other CDs, over and over, and over again. It used to be that I could go into my room, sit down with an album, and just listen to it through. It was, in and of itself, a form of entertainment.
Unfortunately for the musicians and the music entertainment business, how we consume music media has changed. Thanks to Top 40 radio stations and YouTube, most of my generation ignores albums in their entirety and focus on the “hit single”. Which song has the best music video? Which song is featured most in clubs? Which song has the highest YouTube view count? Music is no longer the primary focus, it is something that is constantly on in the background of our lives.
Alongside the fall of the musical album, we have the rise of music piracy. When albums were released on vinyl, it was a lot more difficult to produce illegal copies of that album. As the business transitioned to a digital world, it left open the risk of piracy, and in doing so, has helped grow P2P applications such as Kazaa and BitTorrent. Now any album can be downloaded almost instantaneously, consumed, and discarded. Thankfully, there are legal options for consuming music in this fashion, so here are the best ways to get the music that you want while spending the least amount of money.
Technology is moving away from physical media. Unless you are a collector, or unless you fear “the cloud”, there is no reason that your musical collection should not be digital. If you already have a huge physical media collection, there are plenty of guides to transfer your music to a digital format like mp3 or wma. There are a couple of reasons for going digital…
First, it’s practical. If you go to a store and look to buy a portable media player, you aren’t going to find a walkman or a discman on the shelf. You will find an iPod or mp3 player. They are smaller, can fit more music, and have more features. New vehicles are equipped with bluetooth or auxilary inputs for media players, and home stereo systems are the same. Eventually, it is predicted that all physical media will be done away with. Instead of fighting against the trends and investing in an ever increasingly expensive dying system, go with the flow and go digital. It will save you time and money.
Secondly, it’s cheaper. If you want to buy a new album, you can either hit up your local FutureShop/BestBuy/HMV and see if you can find the new release CD for $15 or $20. That same album will be available online from multiple retailers for $10. For one CD, it might not be a big difference, but if you want to own a LOT of music, then that is a huge premium to be paying.
The way that technology has already come, and the direction that it is going, you have to start to consider if you really need to own music from now on. Back in the days of vinyl and cassette tapes, if you wanted to hear a song, you had to own it – or at least know someone who owned it. The chance of catching it on the radio were slim, so unless you purchased the music, you may never hear the songs or the album that you wanted. Now, however, it is ridiculously easy to listen to music that you don’t own.
Websites have sprung up all over the web that allow one to listen to a musical album. Various online radio stations – such as Grooveshark (CAN) or Pandora (US) allow one to pick and choose music or listen to random selections in a genre. It is all supported by online advertising, and it is all free and legal. For just a single song, YouTube will most likely have a version you can listen to, again, supported by ads. Chances are good that you have an internet capable device at home – and with the proliferation of smart phones, chances are also good that you can listen to streamed music while on the road as well.
How have you saved money on your music collection?